Maybe that’s not the first thing that pops in your head when you hear “India”. Although, you should know cows are sacred there, which means that you will find McVeggie hamburgers and absolutely no beef at McDonald’s.
Well Holy Cow, after the green ink on my passport, it was official.
But the madness had started even before.
In the midst ofexcitement, yellow fever shots, pre-travel shopping ( bug repellent, anti-itch cream, tons of stuff and that annoying waist wallet to carry around things I shouldn’t lose); I got back my passport with my 6 month Indian tourist Visa. For some reason, said Visa was signed with not blue or black ink, but green. That was the first of many differences I would find between everything I’m used to…and India.If I could define my whole trip in one word it would be “different”.
But I like to write so here it goes…
The first step was applying to the “Essence of India” Destination and being accepted. Then the next step was doing the paperwork, getting vaccines, and a long list of things to do before June 13: the day I flew from San Diego to Newark, NJ to meet the coolest girls ever so we could allfly together to Mumbai and bond on the 18 hour plane ride. When we landed on the moon Mumbai it felt like being out of this world. The air was moist, there was no toilet paper in the restroom (because their left hand is usually used to clean themselves after using the toilet, that’s why they eat with their right hand), people speaking in other languages, women wearing saris, nothing like I would’veimagined. And I loved it.
A little shuttle took our group through insane traffic, rain and breathtaking landscapes so that after four hours, we got to our final destination: Sangam World Centre. .
WAGGGS (World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts) has four world centers: Sangam is one of them (the otherthree are in México, Switzerland and England). GSUSA is a part of WAGGGS, any of the 10 million members of WAGGGS can stay in a world centre, and when we arrived we filled out paperwork and went straight to bed… after taking our shoes off before entering the dorm. Wondering about the shoes part? It is a social rule to remove your footwear if you’re walking into a house, temple, etc.
So if you goto India then do NOT use knee-high Converse(none of us did but just saying).
We had a blast in Pune, the city where Sangam is. Pune is in Maharastra, a state whose capital is India’s largest city, Mumbai. The state is located in the west side of India, and has a population of almost 98 million people. Pune is Maharastra’s 2nd largest city, with four million inhabitants and streets full of trucks,motorcycles, bicycles, cows, goats, cars, pedestrians and rickshaws (three wheeled kind of motorcycles which are like taxi cabs and are supposed to fit only three persons). In Sangam, we were mixed up with visitors from Canada, Australia, Nashville and Michigan and divided in patrols, which were our teams. We got to share adventures, laughs and exhausting walks together. The program we all didincluded some challenges (it was like The Amazing Race with fruit like “chikoos” and rupees blending in). For example, on the “Wadi Challenge” we found out that you could buy like six bananas for a bit less than a dollar; on our way to Ganesh’s Temple (hindi god with an elephant head). We found a two story internet café (the ceiling on the 2nd story was about 5’2 feet high), the computers werepowered by car batteries that were piled up next to me…cost 10 rupees an hour! (about 25 cents).
On another challenge, we went to Laxmi Road, with its markets and shops and alleys. Like the bangle alley! With shops covered with bangles of all colors. Random fact: traditionally in the state of Maharastra, green bangles indicate that a woman is married. There are other ways that show if a woman is...